Tag Archives: onions

Nannas know their onions

My name’s Kirsty and I’ve been asked by Riverford to swap apron for laptop and write a cooking blog about the weekly recipes I put together for your veg box and on our website.

I was prompted this week to think about family hand-me-down recipes that use up the last onion in the box. One of our customers, Anne-Marie Haigh, kindly sent me one such recipe – her version of Guernsey Bean Jar, which her mother and grandmother have made before her. There’s no better recommendation than that. Using belly pork, in our winter warmer meatbox this week, it’s adaptable for veggies too.

Anne-Marie’s email reminded me of a couple of recipes that my Nanna and Granny used to make. Braised beef and onions was a classic Nanna dish, often accompanied by homemade wine – elderberry for a special occasion, pea pod for a headache the next morning! Try it with kailkenny (or colcannon, depending where you come from). It links Nanna with my Scottish Granny, who lived in Cullen, on the North East coast, home to a soup cum meal in a bowl, Cullen Skink.

Simple to make and a real cockle warmer, it uses that last onion again. When you’re going for the ‘last tent standing’ award at the gale-swept campsite on the headland at Cullen when I last stayed there, you’ll want an hourly dose of this, coupled with a good dram or two, for sustenance and sanity. I made my version, in which you poach haddock in milk from the start, as Granny did (some recipes just use water for poaching) and served it to my Scottish builder Kenny. It passed muster; I hope you try it too. If you’ve got a leftover leek, use that up instead of the onion.

I’d love to hear about your Nanna’s know-how in the kitchen – email us at recipes@www.riverford.co.uk/blog with suggestions for recipes and foodie topics or questions for this blog.

Happy cooking!


Caught in the act – bunching onions

Could it be the best job I have ever had?

Don’t let my boss know that. But when the sun is shining and the workers are out in the fields, I get out of the office and start shooting (I usually work in the office dealing with all things technical and creative on the computer). I must admit I am a bit of a fair weather photographer, mainly because that’s the time when I will get the best pictures. Early morning and before home time is when the light is at its best.

I arrive at the entrance to a field I have never been to before, where I was told I would find a small army picking spring onions or bunched onions (I haven’t quite worked out the difference yet) for the vegboxes. It’s actually a minute’s walk from Guy’s house… maybe he likes to look out of the window and see people working hard in the fields. I discover that just as I have arrived, everyone’s on a 20 minute break. Typical timing by me. I feel slightly bad, as this is really the first thing I am about to do for the day, and all these people have been working so hard and started so early that they need a break already.

It does however give me a bit of time to decide where to shoot from and to get some shots of people on their break – it is part of the working day after all. I try to work out what the stacks of boxes are at different points around the field, and why there are green leaves piled randomly along the rows. Crates are huddled together with more scattered alongside. It all clicks into place when the field workers return to their jobs. Some are pulling the onions, dead leafing while they go and putting them into crates. Some are sitting on crates bunching and elastic banding, and then chopping the tops off nice and neat with a flick of the wrist and a very sharp knife. Then back into the crates, piled at intervals, to be loaded onto the tractor and vanned

back to the farm and into the cold store to go into the boxes for the next day.
I ask how much they have to do, as the field is pretty big and progress looks painfully slow. “80 crates – we’ll be here all day.” comes the response. I am not wearing one, but I take my hat off to these guys and girls. They even have to carry on working when it rains. I am afraid I am yet to capture that shot.

Martin Ellis